Published: Friday November 7, 2008 MYT 9:53:00 AM
Updated: Friday November 7, 2008 MYT 5:56:06 PM
Court frees Raja Petra (Update 5)
By M. MAGESWARI
SHAH ALAM: Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin was released from his two-year detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA) at 3.20pm Friday.
He arrived at court here at 3.05pm from Kamunting.
He succeeded Friday in his bid to obtain a release order from detention under the ISA.
High Court judge Justice Syed Ahmad Helmy Syed Ahmad on Friday morning allowed the blogger’s habeas corpus application.
Justice Syed Ahmad also ordered for Raja Petra to be brought to the Shah Alam High Court before 4pm for his immediate release.
Upon hearing the court decision, the crowd seated at the packed public gallery clapped and cheered.
This prompted the judge to tell the crowd that “this is a court of law”, which caused the court to be silent, albeit briefly.
The court erupted again with claps and shouts from the public gallery when the judge said that Raja Petra had to be brought to the court for his release on the same day.
At the outset of court proceedings, Justice Syed Ahmad ruled that the grounds for the detention order by Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar for the blogger did not fall under the scope of Section 8(1) of the ISA.
Therefore, the judge said the Sept 22 detention order was unlawful.
Raja Petra was detained on Sept 12 on the grounds that he had intentionally and recklessly published articles which were critical and insulted Muslims, the purity of Islam and the personality of Prophet Muhammad.
It was said to have caused anxiety and anger among Muslims in the country.
He had also allegedly published defamatory articles concerning national leaders which could affect public order and prejudice national security.
He was said to have published the said articles in the Malaysia Today news portal between Jan 16 and Sept 12 this year.
The Home Minister was named as the sole respondent in the application.
Raja Petra was taken to the Kamunting detention camp on Sept 23.
The minister had issued the order against the blogger under Section 8 of the same Act.
However, the judge said Section 8 of the same Act is constitutional as it falls within the ambit of the Article 149 of the Federal Constitution.
(Article 149 is regarding actions to be taken against anyone who participates in any activities which could pose a threat to national security even if it violates their fundamental liberties).
“I find that there is no merit by the counsel’s argument that Section 8 is unconstitutional as it does not fall under Article 149,” he said.
“Section 8 can only be reviewed under procedural non-compliance as provided under Section 8B(1) of the same Act,” he added.
On lead counsel Malik Imtiaz Sarwar’s argument that the order was mala fide (in bad faith), Justice Syed Ahmad said:
“Mala fide is not procedural non-compliance under the ISA,” he said.
The judge said the court only has the power for judicial review for matters which violated the procedures under the ISA.
The judge also commented that the ISA was promulgated not only to counter communism or subversive activities but also to halt any activities which caused a threat to national security.
Speaking to members of the press after being released, Raja Petra said “it is a special price” to get a release from the ISA.
Raja Petra, 58, however, said he was quite surprised that he was able to get the order under his habeas corpus application on Friday.
He said he had applied for the release under a similar application at the Kuala Lumpur High Court after his detention by the police under Section 73 of the ISA.
(The KL habeas corpus case before Justice Suraya Othman is fixed for mention on Monday. DPP Abdul Wahab Mohamed has used the Section 8 detention order to raise a preliminary objection to the blogger’s application).
“I applied again under Section 8 of the same Act (against the two-year detention order issued by the Home Minister) and succeeded.
“Not many people challenging ISA detention have succeeded so I did not give it much hope. It was sort of 50-50,” he told reporters here.
Asked about his feelings, Raja Petra said “I am too tired”.
To a question on what this experience taught him, he said, “I suppose we have to fight to get ISA abolished’.
He also said that ISA is not a valid law to be used against political dissidents.
“The court decision today has made it very clear that ISA cannot be used for political reasons. I am not a terrorist. I am not a dangerous person. I am just a writer,” he said.
Raja Petra’s wife Marina Lee Abdullah said she was very happy with his impending release.
“I am glad that everything turned out well as I had hoped. It is a fantastic breakthrough. “I hope there will be a change in the country,” said Marina, who was accompanied by daughters Sarah, 19, and Suraya, 34.